If Pakistan wants to improve its relationship with India, it must show willingness to cooperate and hand over wanted criminals and terrorists who were taking refuge in the neighbouring country, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar told French newspaper Le Monde in an interview published on Thursday.

“The relationship is difficult since many years, mainly because Pakistan has developed an important terrorist industry and sends terrorists to India to carry out attacks,” Jaishankar said, adding that Pakistan itself does not deny this situation. “Now, tell me: which country would be willing to talk and negotiate with a neighbour who openly practices terrorism against it?”

Jaishankar was responding to a question on whether he would describe the ties between the two nations as “close to zero”, a phrase used by Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

The foreign minister also spoke to the newspaper about India’s relationships with China and the United States, besides the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.

Jaishankar claimed India and China had a “strong commonality” and added that the fact that both the nations were on the rise despite different institutions and meant that they had a common interest. When asked if the two countries were rivals, the minister said it was in their mutual interest to have a good relationship. “China and India have a common interest in making the world more inclusive for the different nations of the world,” he said.

The external affairs minister added that India was not affected by United States President Donald Trump’s policies as the two countries have “never been in an alliance arrangement”. He said India was used to handling international matters on their own, and that the Indian mindset allowed it “to better deal with unpredictability”.

Jammu and Kashmir

Jaishankar claimed the situation in Jammu and Kashmir was back to normal. “When the reforms were announced in August, precautions were taken because of the danger of violent reactions from radical and separatist elements,” he told the newspaper. He also highlighted that restrictions had been gradually eased and that apple harvest was under way.

When asked if foreign journalists would be able to visit the region, the minister said he would not able to provide a deadline but they would be allowed as soon as it was safe to visit.

On the question of whether the image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a nationalist leader was acceptable, Jaishankar said that nationalism had a positive connotation in India. “Nationalists have stood up against colonisation, against the domination of the West,” he said. “There is much to be done with the restoration of identity, of cultural trust. In India, a good nationalist is an internationalist, it is not contradictory.”